Free Muhammed al-Qeq

Palestinian journalist and political prisoner on hunger strike

By Steven Katsineris

Update: Palestinian prisoner, Muhammed al-Qeq, ended 94 days of his hunger strike on Friday, February 26, 2016, after reaching a deal with Israeli authorities that says he will be released in three months’ time.

January 2016—Muhammed al-Qeq (33-years-old) is a Palestinian journalist who is being held for six months in administrative detention without charge or trial in an Israeli prison has been on a hunger strike since November 25, 2015. Muhammed al-Qeq, was arrested November 21, 2015 by Israel’s internal security agency Shin Bet and is protesting his extrajudicial detention by refusing food. Israel’s Shin Bet security service, accused him of links to the Palestinian resistance group Hamas.

His condition is rapidly worsening, his family and Palestinian political prisoners groups say. al-Qeq has been taken to an Israeli hospital as he continues to refuse food and is only drinking water in protest at being imprisoned by Israel without due legal process, a Palestinian official has stated.

Muhammad al-Qeq, a journalist from the occupied West Bank village of Dura, launched his fast on November 24 in protest against his administrative detention, a practice in which Israel imprisons Palestinians on “secret evidence” and without trial or charges.

His father exposed appalling details of al-Qeq’s health saying, “he is about to die now, and he vomits and urinates blood.” The only way to save al-Qeq’s life, his father said, is to set him free. “For those who have consciences, and human rights organizations in the west and east, please try to save the life of my son,” he appealed.

According to Palestinian sources, Israeli forces tortured al-Qeq during his interrogation, when he was subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, exposure to cold, and other forms of abuse.

al-Qeq’s wife, Faiha’a Shalash, said the Israelis arrested him citing as justification alleged media incitement to violence. She said al-Qeq was made to suffer inhuman and degrading treatment while in an Israeli detention center.

“We knew that he was subject to all kinds of threats and torture methods, like being beaten on a small chair when he was handcuffed and blindfolded for long hours,” his wife said.

“They insulted and shouted at him in a humiliating manner and he was put in a very small prison that is not suitable to a human being. He also was threatened with sexual assault and internment for seven years if he doesn’t admit his accusation of incitement to violence,” Shalash added.

Shalash, who is a journalist herself, said the accusation of incitement to violence does not fit with reality. She says al-Qeq was detained because he described the Israelis as an occupying force committing crimes against humanity in the West Bank.

Ashraf Abu Sneneh, al-Qeq’s lawyer, reported that he lost over 40 pounds after 50 days on hunger strike and described al-Qeq’s health condition as critical. The lawyer added that he suspects the Israeli authorities are going to use force-feeding, a practice widely recognized as torture.

“I think if the Israeli occupiers feed Muhammad according to the law that came into effect two months ago, he will die,” al-Qeq’s lawyer warned. The contentious Israeli law passed last year allows for the force-feeding of a hunger striker if his life is in danger, even if the prisoner refuses.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) called on the international community to press the Israeli authorities to free al-Qeq. “MADA urges all international human rights and freedom of expression organizations to put pressure on the Israeli occupation government to release al-Qeq to save his life, which is under imminent threat due to his hunger strike,” it said in a statement.

Ramy Abdu, director of the Gaza chapter of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, says that Israel uses administrative detention to “shut up” influential members of society “who speak out loudly against the Israeli occupation.”

“Israeli forces target academics, professionals, journalists, student activists and other influential leaders in the community by using administrative detention,” he told reporters.

Administrative detention is a sort of imprisonment without trial or charge that allows Israel to incarcerate Palestinians for up to six months. The detention order can and has been renewed for indefinite periods of time.

According to prisoners’ rights group ADDAMEER,* Muhammad al-Qeq is one of 660 Palestinians held by Israel without trial or charges. ADDAMEER states that there are an estimated 6,800 Palestinians being held in prison in Israel. Of these 470 are children.

Another Palestinian hunger striker, Abdullah Abu Jaber’s condition is also deteriorating and he has been moved to hospital. Hunger strikes are a common tactic for Palestinian prisoners to secure their release or to protest against the unjust and harsh conditions of their imprisonment.

Sources: ADDAMEER* Palestine Chronicle, Electronic Intifada and Al Jazeera.   

*ADDAMEER (Arabic for conscience) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association is a Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution that works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons. Established in 1992 by a group of activists interested in human rights, the center offers free legal aid to political prisoners, advocates their rights at the national and international level, and works to end torture and other violations of prisoners’ rights through monitoring, legal procedures and solidarity campaigns.